World’s unions reject boycotts, embrace Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.

Eric Lee at Tulip :

The international trade union movement has just delivered a stinging rebuff to advocates of the campaign to boycott Israel.

At its second world congress which just concluded in Vancouver, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) rejected calls to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targetting the Jewish state.

A vehemently anti-Israel resolution submitted by the Congress of South African Trade Unions never made it to the floor.

And in a stunning blow to pro-Hamas activists in some unions, the Israeli national trade union center Histadrut was honored by the global trade union movement.

Its leader, Ofer Eini, was elevated to the ITUC’s 25-member Executive Board as well as its General Council. Eini was also elected as one of the organization’s Vice Presidents.

The ITUC has 312 affiliated organizations in 156 countries and territories representing 176 million workers.

Eini’s election followed calls by major unions in the UK and elsewhere for the Histadrut to be boycotted. Instead, the international trade union movement has embraced the Israeli unions, understanding them — correctly — to be important partners in building peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a resolution adopted by the ITUC congress, the positive role of the Histadrut was made explicit:

“Congress welcomes the landmark agreement between Histadrut and the PGFTU on the rights of Palestinian workers, which was finalised with the assistance of the ITUC in August 2008, and initiatives by Global Union Federations in their sectors to support cooperation in defence of workers’ rights. This agreement, and other actions to promote decent work and end discrimination, are crucial to building the basis for just and equitable economic development.”

For the future, the ITUC resolution declared:

“Congress commits the ITUC to continue to support the strengthening of cooperation between the Palestinian and Israeli trade union movements and calls upon the international community to support Palestinian economic reconstruction and development, including through the ILO Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection.”

In addition, the world’s trade unions

-Called for a two-state solution — and “universal recognition of Israel’s right to exist, next to an independent viable Palestinian state”.

-Rejected “the extremist policies of Hamas“.

-Condemned the Egyptian “decision to impose heavy restrictions on its border with Gaza”.

-Acknowledged that Israeli’s December 2008 attack on Gaza came “in response to rocket attacks”.

-Supported the 2002 “Road Map” for peace proposed by the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union.

The resolution adopted was highly critical of many Israeli policies, calling for an end to illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories, rejecting the blockade of Gaza and the building of a security fence, and so on.

But what stands out clearly is the commitment by the vast majority of the world’s trade unions to a two-state solution and to strengthening Israeli-Palestinian trade union cooperation.

This is welcome news for Israelis and Palestinians and a blow to the supporters of Hamas who have tried hard to isolate and demonize Israel within the trade union movement.

In a quandry about relating to Israel

The debate about how Jews should relate to Israel continues. I’m sure there are better responses than the one I am about to give below. I’ve only had half an eye on these debates because what I’ve read struck me as either communitarian or else to do with manicuring the self-image of the author. Since this blog is primarily concerned with antisemitic beliefs and acts, which we consider to be everybody’s problem, we (I think I can speak for all of us – let’s see) don’t feel that dwelling on the responsibilities of Jewish communities, or Jews outside communities, is right. How Jews act and think of themselves are community concerns – but these should be for their own sake, not as means of mitigating antisemitism.

However, a recent Ynet piece by Sara Reef (of whom I’ve been unaware up till now – she’s a specialist in intercultural communications with a Middle East focus, based in the US) was neither self-manicuring nor communitarian, but contemplated the problem as one of imposed spokespersonship.

Not that Sara Reef is resigned to this state of affairs, but resignation is unwise, I think. Sara lists the things that she cannot do, or isn’t expected to do, that Israeli citizens can and must, the most pertinent here being vote. It shouldn’t need pointing out that Israeli politicians who claim (and I can only half-remember one example) to act on behalf of citizens of other states, have no mandate to do so. None. Zero. No efforts at dissociation should be required. This kind of talk is a call for, rather than assertion of, Jewish solidarity. When people cite it to scrutinise ordinary Jews for dual loyalty, or the wrong loyalty, we should treat that in much the same way as we treat scrutiny of ordinary Muslims in the aftermath of terror attacks carried out in the name of Islam. That is, as wrong.

It shouldn’t need pointing out that if we begin to go along with expecting Jews outside Israel to follow Israeli politics, then this is liable – or perhaps even likely – to reveal a similar diversity of politics as there is among Israeli citizens.

It shouldn’t need pointing out that to follow Israeli politics at sufficient detail to intervene, as some have recommended, in a politically responsible way would entail a great many Jews outside Israel becoming more knowledgeable about Israeli politics than they are about the politics of their own states. That wouldn’t be good. And because it wouldn’t look good, either, Jews can’t deflect antisemitism this way.

It shouldn’t need pointing out – and this is where the conflicts Israel is embroiled in reach out, uninvited and unwelcome, to touch far-away Jews – that the concepts ‘Jew’, ‘Israeli’ and ‘Zionist’ are already permitted to slide into each other with disturbing frequency, as Sara knows herself from the encounters with her colleagues. We’ve all been there I reckon – for more ominous examples see also this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and this, a small sample only. So it’s necessary to patiently explain why Jews of no official standing with respect to Israel cannot be assumed to know about Israel, and where they do, it’s a personal opinion informed by their own politics.

So do Jews have any special responsibilities with regards to Israel? I’d say that is a matter of individual conscience. Personally (and after all this, readers are entitled to wonder) I feel mine are independent of being Jewish: not to make myself, writing here, amenable to people whose Israel-eliminationist or Israel-expansionist politics I oppose; where writing about Israel, not to undermine – actively or by omission – people who are dedicating themselves to convincing Israelis and Palestinians to support civil rights and liberties for all and the circumstances which will end the occupation.

I’m equally interested in campaigning Israelis’ political responsibilities to Jews outside Israel – but that’s another story.

Ben Gidley – who are the English Defence League?

The previous post describes Naomi Chazan’s efforts to bolster a politics of inclusion against the waxing defencism of Israel’s political right and the exclusions it purports to justify.

This substantial piece from Ben Gidley on the Dissent blog Arguing the World, linked from our previous EDL post but deserving a post of its own, brings this endeavour to Britain’s backyard. The piece begins by examining the EDL’s ‘suited’ and ‘booted’ members respectively, proceeds to discuss what feeds the EDL and how it might best be categorised within British politics, and concludes by considering what impact it might have should it become electorally oriented, and how to respond to it in the long-term:

“I genuinely have no suggestions then about the best way to respond to the EDL in the short term, but the nature of the EDL seems to me to have clear implications about how to defeat them in the long term.  In the long term, we need a politics that mounts a robust defense of the best elements of the Western enlightenment tradition against the genuine threat posed by Islamism. If we leave this defense to arch-reactionaries, we’ve failed in advance. One aspect of this is surely to engage with those forces within the communities targeted by the EDL who also care about Western democratic values, which is why campaigns like One Law for All and grassroots organizations like Southall Black Sisters are so important.

Second, we need to foster an ethics of hospitality and solidarity, so that the communities which the EDL seeks to inflame and divide are immunized against their provocations. This means we need to actually make the arguments for the value of immigration, cultural diversity, and religious tolerance. Since 2001 we have generally failed in this. Within Guardian-reading enclaves these values are just taken for granted, while in local and national politics the mainstream Left has been reticent about defending them to the point of silence. The absence of a debate has enabled the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim Right to dominate the discourse while claiming an underdog status in relation to the liberal elite. People who are concerned about the impact of migration in their areas or about the threat Islam might pose are made to feel vaguely ashamed (as with Gillian Duffy, confronted with the prime minister calling her a bigot), but the counter-arguments are simply not articulated. The moment to articulate them is now long overdue.”

An important read.

Naomi Chazan: “Israel’s democracy is Israel’s soul”

This is a guest post by Kubbeh.

Leading Israeli academic, peace activist and president of the New Israel Fund (NIF), Naomi Chazan, was in the UK earlier this month, talking to the Jewish community about her hopes and fears for Israel’s democracy. We’ve all heard the statement that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It may not be perfect (where is?), but it is true. The citizens of Egypt, Jordan, Gaza, Syria, Iran and elsewhere would all benefit from a good dose of democracy – particularly women, Christians, gay men and women, journalists and political dissidents.

Speaking earlier this month to a capacity crowd at Moishe House, a post-denominational Jewish community in west London, Chazan outlined the challenges to Israel’s democracy and what her organisation is doing about it. These reached a peak earlier this year with a well-funded smear campaign against NIF by right-wing pressure group, Im Tirtzu, which attempted to vilify Chazan and NIF as enemies of the state.

“Is there a problem [with Israel’s democracy]? Absolutely yes. Is there a hope? Equally so, she said.

For Chazan, democracy is fundamental to the existence and success of Israel as a Jewish state:

“Israel’s democracy is Israel’s soul. Without Israel’s democracy, there will be no Israel. That is because Israel’s raison d’etre, as embodied in its Declaration of Independence, will no longer exist. The source of Israel’s strength is its democracy.”

Chazan explained how the NIF has been “thrust to the centre” of guarding Israel’s democracy, a role which she sees as crucial to upholding the Zionist dream embodied by the state’s founding fathers: “Jews have the right to self-determination in two senses,” she said. “Collective self-determination, in terms of the right to create a state for the Jews; and individual self-determination, through creating a society which grants individual liberties and social justice to all of its citizens regardless of race, religion or gender.”

She also took a swipe at anti-Zionists and boycotters, many of whom she regularly meets in academic circles, who want to see Israel relegated to the dustbin of history:“I have nothing in common with people who tell me that I have no right to exist. We need to distinguish between the deniers and deligitimisers – and dissenters.”

At a time when Israel is more politically isolated and vilified than ever before and the Islamist extremists of Hamas and Hezbollah continue to stockpile weapons to use against Israeli civilians, the work of peace and civil rights movements like NIF is more vital than ever. Israelis who want to walk the path of moderation have never had it so tough. In Chazan’s words, they are “stuck between those who don’t want to hear it and those who don’t want them to exist.” If, like me, you feel confused and frustrated about how to respond to recent events in the Middle East, then supporting the New Israel Fund is a good place to start.

Vienna is different

This is a guest post by Karl Pfeifer

The city of Vienna made a promotional campaign with the slogan “Wien ist anders”, Vienna is different. And Vienna after the Second World War was different insofar as it did not call back its former Jewish citizens and it also tolerated anti-Semitism in politics and the media for several decades.

After the publication of Carl Schorske’s book “Fin de siècle in Vienna” the city of Vienna discovered that the world wanted to know more about the blooming of culture in Vienna and about those Jews who contributed to it. Since then the city of Vienna has a Jewish Museum and Michael Häupl, the Social democratic mayor of Vienna condemned the anti-Semitic election campaign in 2001 by the FPÖ of Jörg Haider.

Therefore it was a surprise to the Jewish community when the Vienna City Council (Wiener Gemeinderat) voted unanimously on an anti-Israeli resolution initiated by Omar al Rawi, a Social democratic member of city council.

Erwin Javor and Peter Menasse of the Jewish periodical “Nu” sent three letters to Godwin Schuster, the Social democratic President of the Council. They received no answer.

The first letter:

We call upon the Vienna city council in continuation of its foreign policy activities and in line with its unanimous Resolution of May 31, 2010 condemning Israel to consider the following resolution:
“The world has learnt with shock and horror about the massacre of the Uzbek Minority in Kyrgyzstan where at least 124 victims lost their life. The Viennese city council condemns this brutal behaviour against peaceful people.”
Kindly transmit this demand to the members of Vienna city council
With best regards
Erwin Javor, Publisher NU
Peter Menasse, editor NU

Second letter:

Regarding the new foreign policy engagement of the Viennese City Council we propose the following resolution:
“The world has learnt with shock and horror the news of the execution of the Sunnite leader Abdolmalek Rigi in an Iranian jail. The City Council of Vienna condemns this brutal behaviour against dissenters.”
We take note of the fact that our draft resolution sent to you several days ago concerning the massacre of the Uzbek Minority in Kyrgyzstan has apparently not been dealt with.
However we hope that the foreign policy engagement of the City Council of Vienna will not be restricted exclusively to the condemnation of the State of Israel. If so, we would be interested to know the reasons.
Hoping for an answer now.

The third letter:

Today we send a further proposal for a resolution by the City Council of Vienna. Concerning recent foreign policy engagement of this board we propose the following resolution:
“According to the umbrella organization of Kurdish Associations in Austria Kurds are terrorised in Turkey by its Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said that Kurds would ‘drown in their own blood’. The City Council of Vienna expresses its consternation and calls upon the Turkish government to grant the Kurdish population full minority rights.”
We would like remind you that we still have received no answer to our two previous suggestions for foreign policy resolutions. Is only Israel attracting the attention of Vienna City council? How does it come to this peculiar and so far unique distinction by the City council?
Still waiting for your answer
With best regards etc.

Foreign people should consider the slogan “Vienna is different” as a dangerous threat. And you can inform the president of Vienna City Council G. Schuster : godwin.schuster@spw.at that anti-Semitism manifests itself by applying one standard to the State of Israel and another to the behaviour of any other nation.

Shunning the English Defence League

Late but important:

That’s the EDL.

Updates:

Hizb ut Tahrir: “purify the earth of Jewish filth”

On the CST blog Dave Rich flags Hizb ut Tahrir’s rallying cry issued from a Birmingham-based web site:

“O Muslim Armies! Teach the Jews a lesson after which they will need no further lessons

March forth to fight them, eradicate their entity and purify the earth of their filth.”

(Via Harry’s Place.)

In 2007 I read that Hizb ut Tahrir were the fastest-growing political party in parts of the West Bank. I’m not sure if that is still the case. I hope not.

All-female aid ship to Gaza: spiritual mission or dangerous PR gesture?

This is a guest post by Martin In The Margins

What on earth is a Catholic archbishop doing, blessing the latest attempt to break the Gaza blockade? According to The Guardian an all-female Lebanese aid ship, the Mariam, named after the mother of Jesus, will set out shortly from Beirut. Apparently Christian and Muslim activists ‘gathered yesterday near a statue of the Virgin Mary at Maghdousha in south Lebanon’ for the archbishop’s blessing.

Lending a spiritual veneer to this kind of venture seems completely inappropriate, since its intentions are clearly military-political, designed to break a defensive blockade imposed by a neighbouring state, and at the same time overtly propagandist. In the wake of the original flotilla fiasco, the aim of this new mission is surely to provoke another incident and to heap further international calumny on Israel. Sending an all-woman crew seems cynically designed to increase the PR value of the initiative. The organisers must know that there is zero chance of the Miriam being allowed to dock in Gaza, and every chance of embarrassing media images of Israeli soldiers forcibly removing female activists from the ship.

Hizbullah denies any involvement in the mission, but doubt has been cast on this claim by news that it has vetoed the involvement of Lebanese singer Haifa Wehbe, on the grounds that her reputation for ‘nudity, degradation and immodest dress’ would damage the reputations of the other women on board.

If the Catholic church in Lebanon were really motivated by humanitarian sympathy, it would support the work of the NGOs already working in Gaza, or send aid by legitimate means via Israel (as many as 100 trucks a day cross from Israel into Gaza carrying humanitarian aid). In blessing the Miriam, the archbishop is either naively allowing himself to be used for propagandist ends, or worse, indulging in dangerous political meddling.

“We don’t cherry-pick our conscience” – Elton John

Gavin Gross writes:

I was at Elton John’s sold-out concert last night at Ramat Gan stadium, and thought this greeting he delivered was spot-on and deserves wide distribution.  Elton told the crowd that he was happy to be back in Israel (he played here in 1993), and in a reference to anti-Israel boycotters who called on him to cancel the show, proudly proclaimed “ain’t nobody gonna stop us from coming here.”

He said that as a musician his job was to spread love and peace, and that “we don’t cherry-pick our conscience,” a line for which he received extended applause.

I took this to be a sharp dig at the hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness of figures in the West who focus their ire almost exclusively on Israel, and particularly at his fellow musicians who have recently cancelled their shows here, such as Elvis Costello, the Pixies, Gil Scott-Heron and others.

How many musicians have cancelled their concerts in America because of the thousands of civilians the U.S. military has killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and in drone attacks in Pakistan?

Gavin Gross

OneVoice channels fury

Got this by email from OneVoice:

“If you are furious about the situation in Israel and Palestine, you are not alone. Most people across the globe feel helpless seeing so much hatred, so many deaths and so much extremism.

As the situation continues to unravel, we at OneVoice are saying: enough.

The tragic events that unfolded in the waters off Gaza two weeks ago have brought into sharp focus just how dangerously unsustainable the status quo in the region is.  We call on every citizen to redouble his or her efforts to seize back the agenda for a comprehensive two-state solution – guaranteeing an end to the conflict, end to the occupation, and ensuring security and peace for the people of Israel and Palestine.

Amid these circumstances, it is almost impossible to think about the future. But now is precisely when we need to do everything in our power to ensure that such actions never happen again.

Imagine for a moment the year 2018.  What if in 2018 there was a final status agreement between Israel and Palestine?

Now imagine what life in 2018 will look like for you and your loved ones if there is continued violence, bloodshed and occupation.  Imagine if the events that we witnessed last week were to be compounded by eight more years of blockade, qassam attacks, violence, occupation, insecurity and mistrust.

Both of these futures are in fact very real.  Separated only by the willingness of people and their leaders to be courageous and take the actions necessary to achieving a two-state solution.

OneVoice Israel and OneVoice Palestine youth leaders are capturing thousands of visions for 2018 – asking people not only to visualize their future, but to create it!

OneVoice is channeling the frustrations of the millions of people who feel helpless and paralysed into concrete and constructive actions to ensure this tragedy does not repeat itself. Many Israelis, Palestinians, and concerned international observers do not agree about what took place off the shores of Gaza. Nor do they agree about what took place in 1948, 1967, or pretty much any date that marks a landmark event in this conflict’s constant downward spiral. But the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians can agree about what 2018 should look like.

We are asking three questions:

WHAT will it take to end the conflict?

– This month, Adi Grady speaks about her efforts in convincing Israelis to support their government in negotiations.

WHAT does the region look like?

– In this issue, Dalia Labadi gives her account of a special Town Hall Meeting in Jenin with Palestinian Policemen

WHAT is your role in getting there?

Mohammed Asideh gives his personal story about growing up in Nablus, why he joined OneVoice Palestine, and what he’s doing to help build a Palestinian state.

What is your 2018?

OneVoice is an international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians, empowering them to propel their elected representatives toward a two-state solution. The movement works to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by advocating for a negotiated two-state solution that ends the occupation, ensures security and peace for Israel and Palestine, and solves all final-status issues in accordance with international law. The 1967 borders form the basis for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state with permanent borders and any modifications to be agreed on by both parties. The movement recognises that violence by either side will never be a means to end the conflict.”

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